After months of speculation and hearsay, the Maryland Terrapins got their man. On Monday, the school announced it had hired Kevin Willard from Seton Hall to be its new men’s basketball head coach. The hire brings three months of intrigue to a close. A source two days ago leaked the not-so-surprising news.
And Willard himself even left little to the imagination following his team’s first-round NCAA Tourney exit.
“I’ll give you exactly what I can tell you, I have an agent who I haven’t talked to yet. I don’t know who he’s talking to. I have absolutely no idea. But when I get home, I’ll talk to my agent and discuss things with my agent. I’ll be honest with you … if I’m not here next year, I’d love if Shaheen Holloway is here, that would be the happiest thing to happen to me.”
Willard, a Huntington, N.Y. native will be tasked with leading a once proud program back to a prominence and respectability.
Willard spoke to the press after his hiring.
“Growing up and coaching in the region, I have always admired Maryland basketball. Being named coach of one of the nation’s premier basketball programs is a tremendous honor. Thank you to President Darryl Pines and Damon Evans for trusting me to energize this proud program as we look to galvanize our passionate fan base with a gritty, hard-working style of basketball.
“Having coached against Maryland several times and at XFinity Center, I know how Terp fans feel about this team. I embrace the high expectations. Skill development and a dedication to academic success will be cornerstones of our program, and I can promise Terp nation we will work to make them proud of this basketball team as we build winners on the court and in the classroom. My wife Julie and our boys are excited to join the Terrapin family.”
Terrapins Need A Jolt: Hopefully, Willard Can Provide That
The Terps struggled to a 15-17 record this season under both Mark Turgeon, who resigned in Decembe,r and interim coach Danny Manning, who didn’t capitalize on his opportunity to be top dog at College Park.
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Willard just led the Seton Hall Pirates to the NCAA Tourney, where they were trounced in the opening round by TCU (69-42). In his 11 seasons in South Orange, New Jersey, he went 225-159 while finishing no worse than third in the Big East in five of the last seven seasons.
Winning a share of the Big East title in the 2019-2020 COVID-19-marred stoppage was a huge accomplishment. He also guided the Pirates to five NCAA appearances, going just 1-5 in those appearances.
UMD athletics director Damon Evans talked about the Willard hire, which was all but written in stone over a week ago.
“We are thrilled to welcome Kevin to the Terrapin family. We are excited about the future of Maryland basketball with Kevin leading the way. Known for his gritty, hard-working teams, Kevin has had tremendous success, winning conference championships and leading his teams to NCAA Tournament. He has made a habit of scheduling challenging opponents and winning in those games as evidenced by his record against Big Ten teams in recent years.”
Legendary Terrapins coach Gary Williams also approves of the hire.
“Kevin Willard is a proven winner in the Big East while at Seton Hall. The intensity level of his teams reflect the passion that Kevin will bring to our team and the University.”
A host of other coaches and analysts also congratulated Willard on his new venture.
Willard Will Need To Reconnect With The DMV: He’s In A Basketball Hotbed
Coaching at UMD, has plenty of perks, from elite facilities to great pay and a rabid, enthusiastic fan base. But above all of that is the recruiting advantage you’re afforded, with so many great programs and players around.
In recent years local talent has been ignored as nearby DeMatha High School hasn’t had a player attend Maryland since 2004. The private powerhouse is only 2 miles from the beautiful College Park campus.
It’s imperative that Willard make a connection that hasn’t been there, as well as with other prep programs in the area such as St. Frances, St. John’s, Gonzaga, Bishop McNamara and a host of other quality feeder programs.
Also he’ll need to be front and center on the AAU circuit. His NYC and New Jersey ties should bring some much needed toughness and swag to the program.
Willard will challenge his Terps with a tough non-conference schedule yearly. He has his work cut out for him, as the team is losing its top two scorers in guards Eric Ayala and Fatts Russell. But the cupboard is far from bare, as he’s still got talent barring any unforeseen transfers.
Now this move should trigger a Shaheen Holloway move to his alma mater to replace Willard. But as of now, Holloway has work to do as he’s guided the Saint Peter’s Peacocks to their first-ever Sweet 16.